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State Nurses Garner Support for Mental Health Funding

State Nurses Garner Support for Mental Health Funding

The Tribune-Democrat

September 17, 2009

EBENSBURG — Nurses at the Ebensburg Center held up signs and handed out leaflets along Route 22 in protest of possible funding cuts for mental health and mental retardation facilities because of the state’s budget crisis.

The demonstration Tuesday was part of a statewide effort by nurses at state hospitals and mental retardation centers to retain funding they say is necessary to ensure safe staffing levels.

With its sprawling campus and individual, dormitory-style buildings, the Ebensburg Center along Route 22 provides 24-hour residential care for patients, most of whom have a mental age of between 1 and 2 years and suffer from medical and developmental disabilities.

Carla Johnston, who has worked at the center for 15 years, said, “It would be a shame to cut funding here or for the elderly.”

Anything less than full funding for mental health/mental retardation services is “not an option,” Russ Gates, a registered nurse who has worked for the state for 23 years, said at a news conference.

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“Every day we come to work and provide care for those who cannot care for themselves — some of Pennsylvania’s most vulnerable citizens,” he said.

“Without the care and services that we provide at the Ebensburg Center, who would the responsibility fall on — the families, neighbors, churches, or you the community.”

Drivers honked in support as the nurses held up signs and handed out leaflets urging state legislators to fully fund facilities for the mentally retarded.

In other parts of the state, nurses rallied for the same cause.

“It’s critical that our communities have the safety net that our state facilities provide. If a state budget cuts funding for nursing positions in state facilities, that would hurt the quality of care and create the potential for unsafe conditions for nurses and patients,” said Sue Benek, a nurse at Norristown State Hospital.

The state Legislature and Gov. Ed Rendell have been deadlocked on a budget, and cuts in various programs have been proposed.

No budget agreement has been reached, and many human services programs are running out of funds. ’

© YellowBrix 2009

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